With strong safety LaRon Landry sidelined by a sore left Achilles’ tendon, the Washington Redskins went with rookie DeJon Gomes over veteran Reed Doughty, who had started two games at strong safety and three games at free safety.
Coach Mike Shanahan said that he and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett made the move not because of displeasure with Doughty, but to take advantage of Gomes’ speed.
Gomes, whom Washington drafted in the fifth round out of Nebraska, spent the preseason and training camp learning both safety positions. During the regular season, however, he had played only a couple of snaps on defense while seeing significant action on special teams.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, Gomes said he felt comfortable at either position and believed he could help the Redskins if called upon.
Against the Cowboys, he racked up 14 tackles – second only to veteran linebacker London Fletcher – and did well in pass coverage. He briefly left the game during the second quarter with a knee injury, but returned before the end of the half.
“He played on special teams as well. So, to come in and make the plays that he made, especially being hurt playing special teams, really impressed us first,” Shanahan said. “Not to take anything away from Reed because he’s done a heck of a job when he’s been in there, but, with [Gomes’] speed, we wanted to get a chance to see what he could do. He took advantage of the opportunity.”
Gomes graded himself harder than Shanahan, but aims to improve the next time he gets the nod.
“I think I was average,” the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder said. “I know I’m going to see a lot on film that I could’ve done better. But I’m just going to take it, put it under my belt, learn from my mistakes and keep moving.”